Bill 30, the Health Statutes Amendment Act, sounds so innocuous and yet its intent is to slip more privatization into Alberta’s health care system, even as we struggle with a worldwide pandemic.
We often hear government members or right-wing talk show hosts and their guests point out that we are just moving to a blended private/public health care system similar to Scandinavia, Netherlands and Switzerland.
Kenney assures us that the funding component will remain with the government, and the quality of services won’t decline.
Implicit in this argument is that we’re going to get a more efficient and responsive system like the European models, not the American model. Unfortunately, Alberta’s plan only embraces one side of the public/private European model—health care delivery.
It doesn’t address the elephant in the room—funding.
If our government is already tearing up legal contracts and unilaterally reducing fees for our physicians, how can they satisfy return expectations for corporate providers? It doesn’t compute!
Somebody is going to have to pony up more money to fund corporate profit-taking.
Police tell us ‘if it’s too good to be true, it isn’t’! Yet the Alberta government is peddling the scam that we can have better health care through more privatization, with the government as the sole funder and at the same time, health care budgets can be slashed and taxes kept low.
We’ve bought into this fancy for years and got away with it when ‘booms’ were long and ‘busts’ were short.
If we’re modelling the European system, we have to pay more taxes to fund the private/public health care model.
These European countries pay taxes and lots of taxes. They also have a strong trust in their governments and believe in the public good, whereas we disdainfully call it ‘socialism’.
We and future generations will pay for this change to private delivery in one of two ways.
Those of us who can afford it, will buy our supplementary health insurance for surgeries and basic health care, pay deductibles, and learn what it’s like to face pre-conditions and denials from insurance companies.
For those working the gig economy, seasonal jobs or low paying wage jobs, without corporate benefits, access and quality of care will dramatically decline over time (as in the United Kingdom), or completely disappear for millions (as in the United States).
It’s a misnomer to believe the private sector is more efficient. They are just better at up-selling, cherry-picking, outward appearances and promotion.
Private/public health care delivery, without higher taxes to support it, only leads one way—to more societal inequality and ballooning social and seniors’ costs to society.
Premier Kenney is frozen in time. He had a plan when elected based solely on the next ‘boom’. Even though the pandemic has changed the world dramatically, he is unable to think or operate outside his original plans.
The defining proof that Bill 30 will change our public health care for the worst is clear in the changes made to oversight. The Health Quality Council was once an independent body reporting to the legislature, but now reports directly and only to the man who appoints them—the Minister of Health.
This change doesn’t add more accountability and transparency, it ensures control in the hands of a powerful elite. It’s equivalent to Prime Minister Trudeau, with a majority, changing legislation to have the independent Ethics Commissioner report directly to him rather than Parliament.
Schimke has spent more than 35 years researching and writing on private/public health care.